I ran in a race yesterday.
Not my first time for this race but it's the first time since I said I'd never run it again. I like to make a liar out of myself. I'd done this event three times before and two out of the three times I hadn't enjoyed it at all.
The first time was fine. I ran in a team. Had no expectations. Didn't even time myself but worked out that I'd run around the 25 min mark and was pretty chuffed.
The second time I'd trained for it. I knew I was faster and I wanted to see what I could do. But the race was growing quicker than the organisers had allowed for. There was no proper starting line and no real plan for managing the hoards and in all the confusion the walkers ended up in front of the runners and the result was mayhem. Runners trying to get past rows of walkers with strollers. Injuries galore. My worst ever time for a 5k.
The third time I did it it had grown even bigger. Not enough toilet facilities had meant that I'd gotten to the start quite late and was way back in the field. Again I'd had to spend most of the race trying to pass people and again I was left frustrated.
But this time was a different story. This time the race organisers had gotten smart and had self-nominated starting groups. This time I was close to the front at the start so this time there was a chance that my race time would be fairly indicative of my current fitness and speed. And this time, for the first time in ages I was not nervous at all about racing.
I'd gotten to the start area with plenty of time to spare. Enough time to do the warm up. Not a running warm up - an aerobics warm up. And I swear that nothing has changed since I was wearing fluoro g-strings in the 80s. Good times and bad fashion! It was enough of a warm up to get my heart rate up a little before the hooter sounded and we were off.
Well, kind of off. I might have been close to the front but not quite close enough to get running straight away. And even once I was running I wasn't running like I wanted to. The group may have been the fastest group but I'm pretty sure there were people there that had guessed when they'd put themselves in this time group. Like the girls who were walking before we'd gone 500m. And the Mum with her young son that I just couldn't get past for ages. There's not many races out there where this won't be a problem so it's just a matter of sucking it up and getting on with it as best you can. And it turned out the my best for the first kilometre was 4:42.
That number pleased and scared me. Was it too fast? Could I maintain it? Should I stop thinking so hard and just trust myself?
The answer to the last question was obvious. Of course I should stop thinking and trust my training. After all, my last post was on how well I'd been running and Wednesday's tempo run had seen me maintain that pace for about 8 kilometres so 5 should be definitely do-able.
Second kilometre ticked over at 4:37. Almost halfway through and I'd gotten over two out of the three 'hills'. The third kilometre was where my surprise cheer squad was spread through. There's nothing quite like having someone yell your name to give you a little lift. And having four people at different spots saw me through that kilometre in a speedy-for-me 4:23.
The fourth kilometre had the last 'hill' in it. The Goodwill Bridge. There was not a lot of goodwill in my feelings towards that bridge as I went up it. I knew it was going to bite and it did but I still managed a 4:43 and hearing my watch beep meant I was only a kilometre from home.
And it was about here that I started taking note of the other runners around me. The young girl in the multi-coloured shorts that I'd been trading places with. The tall girl in the pink top. The older lady (and by older I mean close to my age but probably still younger) that came up and slowly passed me with only about 500m to go.
I have been known to be a little competitive at times and I really didn't want her to beat me. But I also didn't know if there really was only 500m to go - I didn't want to start pushing too soon and die before I actually crossed the line. So I just picked up the pace marginally to stay on her tail till I could see the finish line.
I have to admit it was hurting. But I was able to keep it up - the pain was only going to last such a short amount of time longer. And then I saw the looming arch of the finish line. So I stepped on the accelerator. Who cares if I was already red-lining? Who cares if I have historically been known to toss my bickies if I push too hard? This was all about fleeting glory and beating the lady who may or may not have been in my age group.
We had to turn left and then a sharp right and as I went to pass her on the right she totally cut me off. But that didn't stop me. If anything it spurred me on and with only metres to go I was past her and over the finish line. Yay I'd won!! Just that little race within a race. I'd also forgotten which button was the stop one on my watch and didn't work it out till I was well over the line. Obviously multi-tasking isn't my forte. I can either run or operate my watch - not both at the same time.
I left the race knowing I'd run well but without an accurate time or placing. The website said that the results would be up the next day but we all know that they're often up early so I checked a few times during the afternoon. At one stage it looked like the positions were up without times and I got super-excited because I was 29th. Surely a 29th would get me an age group placing! Then I realised that that was my bib number and felt pretty stupid for a good couple of minutes. At least it gave my kids a good laugh at their mother's expense.
Then finally the results did come up.
My fastest 5k in at least 6 years. Gotta be happy with that.
Oh, and that lady? She was in the 40-49 age group.